How To Craft A CEO Morning Routine Like Ashton Smith of The Awakening

Hey, I’m Ashton! I am the CEO and Founder of The Awakening, a platform dedicated to helping women in business build intentionally so they can leave a powerful legacy behind. 

After graduating from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration, diving into entrepreneurship in 2017, and building a brand with global impact, I know what it takes to build a business from the ground up. I love to infuse business strategy with intentional lifestyle so our clients can build a business that is sustainable, aligned, and impactful.

Through my simplistic approach to business, I empower women to own their power as CEO, deeply connect with their vision, & sustainably scale their business with the long-term trajectory in mind.

What time do you wake up in the morning, and how do you wake up? (To an alarm, music, the sun, etc.)

I am a morning person through and through, so I love waking up earlier rather than later. In this season, I enjoy rising between 6:30 and 7:00 AM to my alarm clock. This allows me to have plenty of time to prioritize my morning routine before heading into the office for the day!

How do you like your coffee (if you drink it)?

“IF” I drink it?! Everyone in our community knows that I’m a huge coffee lover – not only for the taste. I truly love the practice of making my morning coffee. I use our pour over and allow it to be a moment of presence, gratitude, and slow moving as I ease into the day.

Normally, I love a good black coffee if we’re making it here at home. Right now, it’s Spring here in Raleigh, NC so when we go out for breakfast, I love a good lavender latte as well. 

What’s on your bedside table?

A huge mason jar of water (hydration, yes please), an essential oil blend I’m loving at the moment (right now, it’s Orange + Lavender), and whatever book I’m currently reading – right now, it’s The Shadow and Bones Trilogy.

Do you prepare for your mornings the night before? If so, how?

Yes, but very minimally. I always like to take a look at my schedule for the following day so I have a nice refresher on what to expect and prioritize. 

If I have anything on my mind, I’ll do a quick brain dump in my Awakening Notebook to get all of my thoughts out of my head and on paper to reference the next day (in really busy and / or creative seasons, I’ll just keep my notebook at my bedside table so I can write in the middle of the night if a thought pops in my head). 

I also like to lay out my workout clothes and create my workout for the day (if it isn’t already pre-created), so the morning feels easy breezy.

What are your skincare/body care rituals?

I love to keep my morning skincare routine fairly simplistic and easy and leave more of the luxury steps for the evening!

In the morning, I start by using my CocoKind Cleanser. This cleanser is so gentle and always leaves my skin feeling so soft! From there, I pat this Brightening Essence into my skin to lock in moisture and provide an extra glow. I complete the routine with this Brightening Lotion. I love it because it’s very soft and lightweight so it absorbs into the skin really well – which is nice if I’m going to wear makeup that day!

In the evening, I like to add some steps in:

  1. CocoKind Cleanser (From the morning routine)
  2. Brightening Essence (From the morning routine)
  3. From there, I massage this Eye Cream in. We love anti-aging around here.
  4. *This is my favorite step* I use this Brightening Lotion, and it’s my favorite I’ve ever used! It is thick, silky, and creamy which is exactly what I want for overnight.
  5. Finally, I use this CBD Beauty Boost oil to lock everything in. This leaves my skin oily, dewy, and SUPER moisturized!

What does your morning routine flow look like?

6:30: I hear my alarm clock ringing and wake up. The first thing I do before I ever leave our bedroom is make up our bed. I put on my workout clothes that have already been laid out, brush my teeth, and pull my hair up.

6:45-7:30: After waking, the first thing I prioritize is movement. I’ve come to the realization that if this isn’t prioritized first thing, it won’t get done.

Moving my body is a huge priority for me – not only because it makes me feel better, but also because I’m sitting at my desk for most of the day.

Right now, I’m enjoying a mix of CrossFit workouts, punching with my husband, or a long walk. Having a variety of options allows me to honor how my body is feeling – either tapping into excess energy or moving easy on a recovery day if my body is super sore.

No matter what workout I’m doing, I like to be outside and in the sunshine – yes, even if it’s cold! This allows me to accomplish my first three goals of any day: 1) movement 2) fresh air and 3) Vitamin D.

7:30-8:00: From there, I head back inside to take a quick shower, do my skincare, curl my hair, and put some makeup and clothes on (if I’m taking meetings that day).

8:00-8:30: Then, we nourish the body. My husband and I alternate every other week on making breakfast, but no matter who is cooking we always like to have a substantial meal to start the day.

Lately, we’ve been having eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, and half an avocado. When I made the shift from having a morning protein shake to a full breakfast, I noticed the biggest shift in energy and stamina throughout the day!

Finally, I move on to my second set of 3 in the morning: 1) My adrenal cocktail (this is a mix of orange juice, coconut water, collagen powder, and a sprinkle of salt) 2) Espresso (in my well-known espresso cup from Italy) 3) Wellness shot – depending on the season (this is a combination of ginger root, turmeric powder, honey, lemon juice, and water). 

8:30-9 or 9:30: Once we’ve wrapped up movement and nourishment, we move over to mindset and soul care. This tends to look different day-to-day depending on what I need. Some of the things I love doing during this time: 

  • Praying and declaration
  • Getting grounded through journaling what I’m grateful for
  • Brain-dumping when I’m feeling chaotic in my mind
  • Embodiment practices: envisioning my next level self, what she believes, thinks, does, says, has and integrating 1-3 of those things into my day. For example, if I know my 7-figure self has a spacious schedule, I may set aside an hour to go to the pool mid work-day.
  • Reading my affirmations out loud. I create key affirmations each year that are aligned with my current season, beliefs, and what I’m working to create in my life and business – so, I reference these at this time!
  • 5-minute breathing exercises to get grounded and present
  • Visualization (similar to my embodiment practice but more so tapping into the visionary space and having FUN with it)
  • Reading my Bible or current business book (I’m obsessed with anything leadership based)

When do you kick off your workday? And do you have any starting-work rituals?

I like to kick off my workday around 9 or 9:30 depending on 1) how long my morning routine was and 2) what my schedule looks like that day. My favorite way to start the day is:

  1. With my espresso in hand (yes, I am known to be the slowest drinker of all time which means I still have my espresso in hand at this point)
  2. Looking at our Awakening Wall (post-it-note style with all of our Awakening Students names on them) and speaking abundance, breakthrough, divine opportunity, clarity, and confidence over them.
  3. Supporting our private clients on Voxer. I love to start each day by catching up on messages, strategizing and supporting clients, and checking in with those that have key projects in the works that day. I always tell our clients that I love to be “in the trenches” of their businesses with them. This is one way I’m able to do that!
  4. Once this is wrapped, this is the point where I finally make my morning coffee before diving into either A) meetings or B) creative projects.

How does your morning routine change on the weekends?

It changes pretty drastically because my theme over the weekends is “go with the flow.” This means that I usually don’t set an alarm clock. I allow myself to sleep in and have really slow, spacious mornings with all the caffeine, journaling, and reading my heart desires! Short answer: it isn’t structured at all. Just super spacious.

What does your mindset look like at the beginning of the day? Do you have any tips or tools for getting in a good mindset?

It depends on the day. Obviously, not every morning is “picture perfect.” Some mornings I’m feeling high vibe and confident and others I may be feeling “bleh.” But I do believe that the way you start your day determines how you approach the rest of your day, which is why I almost always prioritize my morning routine no matter how I feel. This ensures that I give myself the space, care, and opportunity to “reset” that I need.

That said, I do aim to enter into an empowering mindset at the start of every day – tapping into my purpose, passion, drive, vision, and belief. One of the main ways I do this is through declaration. I speak life over myself every morning. I’ll give you a peek into part of my declaration:

I am destined for greatness and goodness and all that I touch prospers. I walk in light and favor everywhere I go. I am a champion, earth shaker, and atmosphere shifter. The seeds I’m planting today are creating a ripple effect on future generations.”

I encourage you to create your OWN declaration. Speak this over yourself at the start of your days until it is so ingrained into your mind that you know it by heart. Let it sink into your subconscious and rewire your beliefs.

What’s non-negotiable vs. what does an extra-luxurious morning look like?

Non-negotiables are movement, nourishment, and embodiment – basically, all that I have listed for my morning routines. At this point, I have this down to a science so I’m usually able to make all of these happen each morning! If I need to decrease my workout time, journaling time, or whip up something easier for breakfast, that’s okay. But each of these key elements have to be prioritized for me!

What would you like to improve with your mornings?

Honestly, I would love to train my body to wake up on its own around 6:30 without a device necessary. The idea of waking up to the sunshine or birds chirping vs. my phone alarm, sounds like a total dream.

What’s your #1 recommendation to others who struggle with mornings?

Find out what works for YOU. If you’re a morning person by nature, you may be able to expect more of yourself in your morning routine. If you’re not a morning person, release the pressure! Identify what your non-negotiables are, and let that be enough. Your morning routine should be designed to serve YOU not to fit into a construct based on what everyone else is doing or what “looks good” on Instagram. 

Want more morning routine inspo? We got you. Check out our collection of past morning routine features from inspiring women.

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